Lyme disease creates a wide variety of signs and symptoms that are nonspecific and often found in other conditions, making diagnosis difficult.
Lab tests to identify the presence of the bacteria can help confirm the diagnosis and guide treatment. Standard Lyme tests such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Western blot identify antibodies that the immune system makes in response to the bacteria. These typically are most reliable a few weeks after initial infection when the levels of antibodies are highest. Most people who contract Lyme disease do not know when they had the initial exposure so this type of testing is not always viable.
A newer Lyme test has come to our attention called a DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. A PCR test uses a technique to amplify trace amounts of DNA that can be used to determine with a very high probability the identity and the source of the DNA. One lab in particular, DNA Connexions, is now offering a full Lyme panel using this technology.
The Lyme disease panel tests for four different genes that are found in Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria associated with Lyme disease. It also tests for eight common Lyme disease co-infections including Babesia microti, Babesia divergens Babesia duncani, Bartonella bacilliformis, Bartonella henselae, Bartonella quintanta, Borrelia miyamotoi Borrelia recurrentis, Ehrlichia chaffensis, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum.
A positive test result indicates the presence of DNA from Borrelia and/or other co-infections. A negative result does not necessarily mean that the patient is not infected, rather it indicates that the DNA was merely not detected. Many factors can be involved with detection such as individual ability to fight the disease, stage of infection, and prior treatments.
The specimen needed for the DNA Connexions Lyme panel consists of a urine collection. Borrelia and co-infections typically do not reside in the urinary tract, so for optimal results we have patients do a one hour rolfing session prior to collection. Rolfing is a manual soft tissue manipulation technique used to correct structural abnormalities and realign the body. The treatment works on the fascia and connective tissue, stirring up whatever bacteria may be in the tissues. We collect the urine immediately after the session and send it to the lab for testing.
No test is completely flawless, however our clinical experience is showing that this method of testing is able to catch many of the Lyme diagnoses that have tested negative through other means.
By Amanda Wilms, ND